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Governor urges Hoosiers to embrace peace over violence in response to injustice
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Governor urges Hoosiers to embrace peace over violence in response to injustice

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Governor urges Hoosiers to embrace peace over violence in response to injustice

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday urged Hoosiers seeing scenes of violence and property destruction play out in Minnesota to follow the example of Robert F. Kennedy in Indianapolis and embrace peace instead.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is hopeful Indiana never will see violent protests and property destruction similar to the scenes playing out this week in the Minnesota cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where a white police officer is accused of murdering an unarmed black man.

The Republican chief executive told reporters Friday he understands the desire to react strongly to incidents of alleged police misconduct and similar injustices in society, but he called on Hoosiers to "take a breath" and to not respond with violence.

"Injuring the innocent in a response to an injustice is counterproductive," Holcomb said. "I'm looking and appealing to people to find it in the goodness of their heart to be part of the solution here, and not part of the problem."

Holcomb said this kind of incident immediately reminds him of the example set by U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-N.Y., whose 1968 presidential campaign happened to be in Indianapolis on the April 4 night civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

Rather than following through on plans for a traditional rally in a majority black neighborhood near downtown, Kennedy instead announced King's death to the many in the crowd who were unaware of it, and spoke passionately about the need for love, wisdom and compassion to prevail in the United States, instead of division, hatred, violence and lawlessness.

"For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, (and) he was killed by a white man," Kennedy said, referring to his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who five years earlier also was assassinated.

"But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land."

Riots broke out that night in more than 100 cities across the United States — but not Indianapolis.

"His eloquent and iconic words not only landed, but connected with people, and really caused us to think about what would calm the waters and what would bring about peace," Holcomb said. "We must do this if we're going to honor those who we lose."

Holcomb noted the recently lost not only includes George Floyd, who died Monday in Minneapolis after a city police officer appears to have killed him by kneeling on Floyd's neck for at least seven minutes, but also the more than 2,000 Hoosiers dead of COVID-19 in the past three months.

"We are experiencing unprecedented times together here in the state of Indiana and there are some beautiful acts of kindness coming out of it," Holcomb said. 

"There, of course, is a full spectrum, and on the fringes there will be some bad actors, and there will be some professional protesters."

Nevertheless, Holcomb said his faith in the First Amendment — "to assemble and to speak and to be heard and to voice your opinion" — is unshakable.

"We'll continue to be respectful on that front. But I ask you to do it peacefully. It will be heard," he said. "Simply increasing your volume does not increase the validity of your argument."

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